Columbia, S.C. – A cow from Tennessee tested positive for atypical bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), a neurologic disease of cattle, at a South Carolina beef processing plant.

The animal showed symptoms of the disease upon arrival at the plant and was euthanized. Samples were sent to a National Animal Health Laboratory Network (NAHLN) lab for testing and returned suspect for BSE. The samples were then sent to USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service’s (APHIS) National Veterinary Services Laboratories (NVSL) where they were confirmed positive for atypical L-type BSE.

“This was an isolated case that occurred. The United States has a robust system of safeguards designed to protect human and animal health against BSE. Those safeguards were successful and prevented entry into the public and animal food supply systems,” said South Carolina State Veterinarian, Michael Neault, director of Clemson University Livestock Poultry Health.

BSE is not contagious and exists in two types — classical and atypical. Classical BSE is the form that occurred primarily in the United Kingdom, beginning in the late 1980’s, and it has been linked to variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (vCJD) in people. The primary source of infection for classical BSE is feed contaminated with the infectious prion agent, such as meat-and-bone meal containing protein derived from rendered infected cattle. Regulations from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have prohibited the inclusion of mammalian protein in feed for cattle and other ruminants since 1997 and have also prohibited high-risk tissue materials in all animal feed since 2009.

This is the seventh case confirmed case of BSE in the United States. The first case of BSE was from an imported Canadian cow that was the only reported classical case in the U.S. The remaining five U.S. cases were atypical.

The United States has a longstanding system of interlocking safeguards against BSE that protects public and animal health in the United States, the most important of which is the removal of specified risk materials — or the parts of an animal that would contain BSE should an animal have the disease — from all animals presented for slaughter. The second safeguard is a strong feed ban that protects cattle from the disease. Another important component of our system — which led to this detection — is our ongoing BSE surveillance program that allows USDA to detect the disease if it exists at very low levels in the U.S. cattle population.